Public Lab Research note

A Questions page to encourage discussions through better UX

by siyuan | June 12, 2017 19:26 12 Jun 19:26 | #14523 | #14523

siyuan was awarded the Basic Barnstar by warren for their work in this research note.

I'm working on a pro-bono project to improve the user experience on Public Lab's site. I've spent some time in the past few weeks learning about and evaluating the Questions page for ways to improve the UX/UI.

I typically like to have a small set of research/design questions that I refer to throughout the design process. Looking at the Questions page, here are a few guiding thoughts:

1. Assuming that a user's goal on this page is to (1) ask a question, (2) answer a question, or (3) explore the discussions, how does the page facilitate (or slow down) these goals?

2. Can the page be reframed to give askers more agency over the discussion?

3. On what other pages are the questions relevant, and in what context should they be embedded?

I used Mural, a brainstorming and collaboration tool, to create a virtual board of questions/comments about the UX:

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I also checked out design patterns on analogous sites. I looked at Stack Overflow, Quora, Slack (asynchronous chat), Reddit (threading), and Instructables for common, intuitive experiences in discussion-based domains.

In the next couple of weeks, I'll be ideating and sketching some ideas for features/layouts that will address some of these comments.


Just wanted to say, I love this analysis and have shared it already with @stevie and @liz and @becki -- thanks so much for posting it here! We're very much looking forward to the next steps, so please tell us what you need.

Thanks to you and to Autodesk!

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Thank you for this, it's really relevant, thanks for the targeted look!

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Just linking in our #soc Summer of Code team who may be interested to read over these analyses as they develop various new interfaces!

@ryzokuken, @stella, @ccpandhare, @mridulnagpal, @Ashan, @david-days, @ananyo2012, @Ujitha, @icarito

Thanks again!

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hi @siyuan , I'm excited to help you get whatever other information you need to ideate and sketch some ideas for features/layouts.

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Hi @siyuan , i just posted this github issue about what seems to be redundant clutter on the /questions page:

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I just wanted to share this follow-up work that Siyuan made on Mural:

It gets at the design of specific "question cards" and has lots of great material. Thanks, Siyuan!

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Like this one on the actual individual question page:


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just adding some notes from a "walkthrough" Liz did highlighting some issues which overlap with the ones @siyuan outlined above:

question search autosuggest is a lot of info at once -- needs thinking through Try typing "particulate matter" is this box search or ask? hit enter tried to search but got a form to keep filling out question went back to /questions trying "filter by topic" input no results for "particulate matter" (due to spaces -- tags can't have spaces, sidebar should constrain to options)

Is this a question? Click here to post it to the Questions page.

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I also wanted to share a lot of snaps from the bigger design Mural, with lots of smaller details (also just in case Mural goes away or something):

In this one below, "Why do I have to do this to answer a question" is because the message is ambiguous -- it actually means to answer OTHER questions on the topic if they get posted, in the future. We could move that whole message down the page and make it less ambiguous.




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@warren awards a barnstar to siyuan for their awesome contribution!

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I've awarded a barnstar here because I wanted to note that we've been gradually implementing everything here, and it's really great. It's a lot of bite-sized recommendations that are easy to break up and hand off to our amazing code community to be implemented, piece by piece. And, all together, it adds up to a much much improved site design! Thanks, @siyuan!!!

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Wow, I've missed the discussion here, but I'm so happy that it's helping evolve the site! Let me know if I can answer any questions or help in any capacity as the team implements some ideas.

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